As Nigerians face an important milestone in the history of the country, one of those at the centre of activity is the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmood Yakubu.
All eyes are on Yakubu as he presides over a general election that may probably be his last in Nigeria.
Yakubu holds a similar position as the one recently held by Kenya's Wafula Chebukati, the former chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). Chebukati presided over two elections in Kenya in 2017 and 2022 and retired last month after six years in the hot seat.
Who is Yakubu?
Yakubu was born in May 1962 in the city of Bauchi, Bauchi State.
He attended Teachers’ College in Toro, Bauchi State between 1975 to 1980. In 1980, he got his Grade II Teachers’ Certificate and was the best student in his class.
From 1980 to 1985, he got his bachelor’s degree from the University of Sokoto, which is now called Usmanu Danfodiyo University. From 1983 to 1985, he was a Federal Government Merit Award scholar.
He got a first-class honours degree in history in 1985. He won the Waziri of Sokoto Prize for the Best Graduating Student and set a record as the first student from Northern Nigeria to get a first-class in history.
After his one year of NYSC in 1985/86, he worked as an academic assistant in the Department of History at the University of Jos. In 1986, he got a Cambridge Commonwealth Trust Scholarship and went to the University of Cambridge in the UK. In 1987, he got a Master of Philosophy (M.Phil) in International Relations.
The same year, he got a Commonwealth Scholarship and went to the University of Oxford, where he got his Doctor of Philosophy (D.Phil) in history in 1991, at 29 years old.
At Oxford, he won three times the Overseas Research Students’ Award of the Committee of Vice Chancellors of United Kingdom Universities and the Beit Fund Research Grant.
In 1986, Professor Yakubu started his academic career as a Graduate Assistant at the University of Jos.
From there, he went to the United Kingdom to continue his education. In 1992, he went back to the University as Lecturer I.
In 1993, he became a Senior Lecturer at the Nigerian Defense Academy in Kaduna. In 1995, he was promoted to Reader, and in 1998, he was made a Professor.
He was Head of the Department of History at the NDA from 1994 to 1995, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and Director of Academic Planning from 1998 to 2000, and a member of the Armed Forces Selection Board from 1998 to 2003.
He was Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences for a second time from 2002 to 2004, Chairman of the Management Board of the Staff School from 2004 to 2006, and the first Dean of the Post Graduate School from 2004 to 2006. He has written more than fifty books.
Professor Yakubu was in charge of tertiary education at the Federal Ministry of Education from 2006 to 2007, and he was also a member of the Presidential Technical Committee for the consolidation of Federal tertiary institutions.
In 2007, he was hired as the Executive Secretary of the Education Trust Fund (ETF), which later became the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund).
In this job, he worked as a member of the Federal Government team on the Renegotiation of the Federal Government Agreement with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) under the leadership of Deacon Gamaliel Onosode.
He was also on the Presidential Task Team on Education, the Committee on Presidential Scholarship for Innovation and Development (PRESID), the Implementation Committee on the Presidential Fund for the Revitalization of Nigerian Public Universities, and the Ministerial Implementation Committee on the Establishment of Nine New Federal Universities, Almajiri Education System.
Yakubu was also the Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Needs Assessment of Nigerian Public Universities.
At the end of his five-year term at TETFund in 2012, Professor Yakubu had overcome many obstacles and brought many new ideas to the country’s higher education system.
Some of these innovations are the Academic Staff Training and Development programme, which paid for over 6,000 lecturers from different Higher Education Institutions to get postgraduate degrees at Nigerian universities and over 2,000 lecturers to get postgraduate degrees at universities outside of Nigeria.
Other innovations include the Special High Impact Intervention Project, which aimed to improve the teaching, learning, and research facilities in 20 Universities, 12 Polytechnics, and 4 Colleges of Education.
Professor Yakubu was asked to be a technical member of the Implementation Monitoring Committee (IMC) for the Presidential Special Intervention Fund for the Revitalization of Nigerian
Public Universities in 2013.
In 2014, he was the Assistant Secretary in charge of finances and administration for the National Conference.
He is a member of both the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations and the Historical Society of Nigeria. In 2009, he gave the convocation lecture at Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, and in 2013, he took part in a meeting to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Olabisi Onabanjo University in Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State.
He has a Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa) from the Usmanu Danfodiyo University in Sokoto and a Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa) from both the Ebonyi State University in Abakaliki and the Ambrose Alli University in Ekpoma.
Mahmood was appointed Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) by President Muhammadu Buhari on October 21, 2015, and took his oath of office on November 9, 2015. He replaced Amina Zakari, who had been serving as acting chairman since Attahiru Jega’s term as chairman ended.
At the 2014 National Conference, Yakubu also worked as the Assistant Secretary of Finance and Administration. In 2013, the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations gave him an honorary fellowship.
Yakubu is the first person to serve as INEC’s chairman for two terms.
His defense over inconclusive elections
In August 2016, INEC was accused of conducting too many inconclusive elections within a short period of Yakubu’s appointment.
But, in a reaction contained in a press statement signed by Musa Adamu, the acting secretary to the Commission, the Commission said it conducted 139 elections which were concluded.
The then outgoing president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Augustine Alegeh, in his remarks at the opening of the Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, on Sunday, 21 August 2016, alleged to have said that INEC under Yakubu had conducted one hundred and thirty six (136) inconclusive elections in the past one year.
“The Commission has thus far concluded 139 elections (118 at first ballot and 21 after supplementary) out of a total of 163 scheduled elections and that 22 elections were suspended due to violence while 2 elections are sub-judice”.
“This shows that 72.3 percent of the elections were concluded at the first ballot, 21.8 percent of the inconclusive elections were concluded after supplementary; 1.2 percent are pending; while 13.4 percent were suspended in Rivers state due to violence,” Alegeh said.
But reacting to the allegation, the Commission said that it was “ill informed”, “misplaced and undeserved.”
It added that “inconclusive elections are caused by violence and over-voting and that the notion of inconclusive election is not strange to our law (see Section 26 and 53 of Electoral Act 2010 as amended).”
In October 2019, shortly after the general election, Yakubu dismissed insinuations that all elections conducted since he assumed office had been inconclusive.
He said the commission can only resort to declaring elections inconclusive whenever the circumstances warrant it.